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of Christianity the rule of my belief: its precepts that of my conduct. Oh, William, how easy it is to write of virtuous deeds! how difficult to perform them! How easy is it to make a good resolve! and how difficult to abide by one! But the power, truth, and goodness of God are infinite, and he has promised to give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him.” Of this friend to whom he thus unbosoms himself, and who was soon removed by death, he afterwards wrote to Mr. Strahan: “No sense of sacredness, no feeling of devotion, connected with either bis genius or his worth, shall ever press on the minds of those who behold the nameless sod which covers his remains; and yet though thus obscure, he has earned a loftier fame than that which the men of this earth can bestow. Through the grace of God he had subdued his own spirit ; he had striven against the ills of human life and human nature, and so far as these concerned himself he had overcome them; and as he had the merit of living without reproach, so he had the happiness of dying without fear. These, my dear sir, were achievements greater than any merely literary ones, and you know the fame awarded to such God has described as bestowed by his own lips and those of the pure spirits of heaven.” Gentle must have been the nature and warm the heart of the strong, shaggy, hard-handed mason, who could write thus of a delicate journeyman house-painter, who had sickened and fallen into an early grave, leaving little behind him but the deep wellings of affection his goodness had evoked within the bosom of his friend. Henceforth the life of Miller is to be guided by the principle of the gospel ; he is to be in the world to effect a great work therein, yet not to be of it. He does not allow his light to become dim or his warmth to grow cold. The fervour of his piety and the depth of his feeling are evinced in a letter written, in 1835, to Mr. William Smith, wherein he says: "Permit me again, my dear William, to recommend to you Jesus Christ as the only Saviour. Open all your heart to him, for he is man, and can sympathise in all its affections; trust yourself implicitly in him, for he is God, omnipotent to aid and unable to deceive. Faith can realize his presence, and there is happiness to be found in his society, where the full heart pours itself out before him, of which the world can form no conception. In life or in death, in health or in sickness, it is well to be able to lean oneself on him, as John did at the last supper, and to feel, as it were, the heart of his humanity beating under the broad buckler of his power. Whatever it may be your fate to encounter -whether protracted, spirit-subduing indisposition, or that solemn and awful change so big with interest to the human heart and so fitted to awaken its hopes and its fears; or whether you are to be again restored to the lesser cares and narrower prospects of the present life-in whatever circumstances placed, or by whatever objects surrounded, you will find him to be an all-sufficient Saviour, and the friend that sticketh closer than a brother. Would that I were worthy to recommend him to you—more like himself! but I know you will forgive me the freedom with which I write, and that you will not associate with his infinite wisdom and purity any of the folly or the evil which attaches to, my dear William, your sincere and affectionate friend, Hugh Miller.”
[In a second paper we shall see Hugh Miller as the Editor and Man of Science.]
On the Best Means of Promoting the Spirituality
of the Church .
A PAPER READ BEFORE THE LIVERPOOL UNION OF BAPTIST CHURCHES, AT MYRTLE STREET CHAPEL, LIVERPOOL, BY WM. H. KING, BIRKENHEAD. THE
is one which presses upon the attention, and challenges the most prayerful thought of every earnest Christian. The daily temptation and care to which all members of churches are subject, the unceasing contact with a world out of harmony with its purpose and aspiration, make the promotion of spiritual life the great task, the continual struggle of every renewed heart. To maintain a continual combat against the power of sin within, and the force of temptation from without, is the great life work of the individual Christian. How to promote the spirituality and purity of the churches amid the tainting atmosphere of worldliness, is the ever-recurring problem of our associated life as members of the church of Christ.
In introducing a subject of such vital interest, I have on my mind a feeling of great responsibility—a responsibility, however, which is much lessened by two considerations. The first is, that you are not depending upon me for the statement of the whole truth on this matter. My duty is simply to offer some observations that may furnish a starting point for further consideration—to set in train and possibly to stimulate your own thought, that out of the collected experience of those who are here met together, there may be brought some practical conclusions.
The second is, that on such a subject you will not expect me to advance anything new or striking. This old, yet ever present, anxiety of the church of Christ has drawn forth some of the choicest productions of the sanctified thought of God's noblest servants ; and there is not one who has any right to be regarded as a teacher in the church who is not in the habit of giving to it his most prayerful attention. It would be almost an impertinence therefore to try to bring before you any absolutely original ideas. I can only hope to arrange and bring to your remembrance truths and facts with which you are already familiar. It is a fair presumption that among the opinions expressed on such a subject, those which may be new will not be true, and those which are true will not be new.
My purpose in this paper will be twofold: first, to lay a broad and, as I hope, scriptural foundation, on which our opinions may be firmly based ; and then to throw out some remarks of a practical character which may challenge attention and promote conversation.
Now let us, in the first place, consider what is meant by the phrase • spirituality of the churches.” To begin at the beginning, what is meant by the word “spirituality ?” Now, observe, it is not simply a refined sort of morality. It is not exactitude of conduct. It is not respect for, or a panctilious attendance on the ordinances of religion. There may be careful attention and reverent demeanour at the stated services for public worship, a thoroughly intelligent appreciation of thoughtful preaching; and further, an earnest enthusiasm on behalf of some principles of Christian truth, while there is but little or no true spirituality. Spirituality is nothing else than life. That which we regard as the evidence and proof of spirituality is not genuine if it be not the true and proper expression of spiritual life. The mere routine of outward observances without the loving desire to serve him who is the centre and life of them all, can never bring joy or strength to the heart. If there be life in the souls and love in the hearts of the worshippers, if the body of Christ be thrilled to its remotest members with the living power of its indwelling Lord, then the outward services become the appropriate garments in which the living church clothes and displays itself; but if in the place of life you have only the dull, cold round of mere formality, then these observances of external worship are to the church only the clean white cerecloth which enshrouds and hides the repulsiveness of death.
If spirituality is life, the next point to be determined is, what is that spiritual life? Whence comes it? How is it produced ? I apprehend that those who are here to-night will admit but one answer to these questions. Spiritual life is the gift of God. It is a divine inspiration. " That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Let others talk of Christian life as though it were a product of moral cultivation, and might be obtained by a process of education or culture, it is the glory of our churches to bear unfaltering witness to the truth that no explanation can meet the facts of Christian consciousness, nor harmonize with the words of Scripture which does not refer the birth of spiritual life to the special contact of God with the soul of man. Spiritual life is divine life—the life of God in the soul. Every heart that has become quickened into love for Christ has been changed by the Spirit of God. The new hope, and fear, and joy of the awakened soul are as much the result of divine inspiration as the truths proclaimed by prophets and apostles. Seers of old were inspired to write: servants of God now are inspired to live.
It is at our peril as churches of Christ that we keep in the back ground, or explain away this fundamental truth of the gospel. Without this as the central fact of our creed, and the living power in our churches, we shall become as salt which has lost its savour, as lamps which have ceased to give light. All deliberation as to the best means of promoting spirituality which does not take this into account will be utterly useless, or worse still, terribly deceptive, for it will tend to bring the church down to the level of organized bodies which are kept in motion by the mere mechanical power of an external and human impulse instead of the divine force of an inward and all-pervading life.
So far as we have come, then, we see that spirituality is an intensely personal thing; it is spiritual life in the individual soul. The phrase, * spirituality of the church,” can have no other meaning than the spirituality of the separate members who together make up the church. The difference between a spiritual and vigorous church and one that is cold and powerless, is simply this—that in the one there is a larger proportion than in the other of earnest, enlightened, spiritual-minded men and women. Now this truth, so obvious and simple when thus stated, is one which, nevertheless, is practically much overlooked. Some church
members talk as though the church possessed a life altogether distinct from their own, and as though their own influence had nothing whatever to do with its condition. It is not uncommon, at times, to hear persons of this sort say, “How cold the church is! How lamentably low is the spirituality of the church ;” when, perhaps, that which they see around them is but the reflection of their own spiritual state. Every minister and office-bearer will doubtless bear out the assertion, that it is precisely those who complain most of the church's poverty who contribute the least to its spirituality and power. The earnest, devoted heart that finds its delight in the service of God, that prays and labours for the extension of the Saviour's kingdom among men, looks upon the church in the light of its own hopeful confidence, and sees proof of blessing where the barren heart sees only barrenness. However this may be, the fact is clear, that each member of the church is, in his measure, responsible for the purity and spirituality of the whole. As the fellow-servants of the Lord Jesus Christ, we are bound together by the closest possible ties. We are not to think of ourselves as separate atoms floating down the stream of time, just now and again in transient companionship with each other. We do not possess a distinct life which is linked together only by outward ties and for a merely selfish or temporal purpose. Our spiritual life is, and must be, part of that larger life the life of the universal church. By mysterious, yet most potent links of influence, we are joined to each other and to the whole family of God.
It has been necessary to give distinct enunciation to these primary facts, in order that whatever effort may be suggested may be in harmony with the essential spirit of the gospel. Our deliberation will be worse than useless if we do not begin upon a sound basis of scriptural truth.
Having come so far, we can now see distinctly that, inasmuch as spirituality is but the expression and the result of spiritual life, and that life the gift of God to individual men and women, our enquiry must branch off in two directions. We must ask, first, What are the influences which tend to repress and obstruct spiritual life in the soul ? and then, What are the means which, in the light of experience and Scripture, God uses to promote it?
In answer to the first question, let it be observed, that one great obstacle in the way of promoting the spirituality of the church is, the engaging in questionable business transactions on the part of Christian men. There is, perhaps, no influence at work more deadening to the spiritual life of a man, more essentially adverse to his growth in piety, than to be guilty of practices which his conscience does not approve. Such practices need not be dishonest in the eyes of the world; it is enough to make them intensely mischievous to himself, if they be not in harmony with his own sense of right. Entanglement in such unhappy snares soon makes a man lose his relish for Christian engagements and duties. The irksome feeling grows upon him that it is something like hypocrisy to leave his business and attend a prayermeeting. Sooner or later, if the unrighteous thing be not repented of and forsaken, it produces one of two results: it either makes him neglect altogether the duties of a church member, and he becomes a mere walker in the outer courts, dwelling just within the boundary line
that separates the church from the world; or else he does violence to his own nature by making a gulf between his business and his religion, and ceasing to regard Christianity as a matter of life and conscience, he sinks to the level of a mere formalist, having a name to live while he is dead. In either case he has ceased to be an element of power in the church. Nor is this all; if it were, the mischief would not be so great. He is not only so far a loss to the church's power ; worse than that, he becomes an obstruction in it. His history is not a secret to himself. Others can read his character. His declension suggests doubt and distrust to the minds of his brethren. He becomes a stumbling-block to those who are desirous of joining the church. And his conduct gives point to the worlding's satire, that men who profess to be Christians are no better than anybody else.
Another great obstacle to the church's spirituality is, the absorbing eagerness with which so many Christians join in the race after wealth and worldly position. I have no faith in any refined theories about the incompatibility between riches and religion. There can be no question that wealth is power-power for evil, if a man use it wrongly; a power for good, if wisely and righteously used. But, to the Christian, wealth must be a servant, and not a master. Let the disciple of Christ keep the desire for wealth in its subordinate and rightful place, and then its acquisition may become even a religious duty. It is not without deep significance that the apostle has put into one sentence the threefold exhortation, to be “not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord.” But while asserting most strongly that contentment with poverty is not piety, and while admitting that the acquisition of wealth may, when prompted by a high and pure motive, be raised to the dignity of a Christian duty, it cannot be questioned that the greatest of all impediments to a church's spirituality is the intense eagerness with which so many Christians devote themselves to the world. How is it possible for a man's spiritual life to be vigorous, when the love of Christ has become dethroned from his heart by the desire for worldly prosperity ? How can he become a power in the church of Christ, when the claims of the gospel are crowded out of his mind by the obtrusions of worldly ambition ?
And, let it not be forgotten, that this paralysing sin of worldliness is not confined to those who are immersed in business. Indifference to the claims of spiritual religion may, and often does, exist where the pressure of business engagements cannot be pleaded in extenuation of it. The pleasures of the world ensnare, as well as its duties and cares. How many of those who, in the early warmth of their Christian life, are diligent in the prosecution of their duties, at length become cold and apathetic, and allow themselves to be drawn off from their church obligations by the attractions of the world! One duty after another is given up, until the only evidences that can be seen of their Christian position are, that their names are written in the church roll, and that they attend public worship once on the Lord's-day. None of us are free from the encroachments of the world upon our hearts. invade the pulpit and fetter the preacher; taking from his utterances all life and unction. The atmosphere of the world affects the soul as the freezing cold of the Alpine heights affects the body; it makes our